April 30, 1990 12:00 PM


All right, this middle-aged trio may look like the opening act from a ladies-club talent night, but no matter. They play saucy, take-no-guff blues with the best, and with plenty of feminist brass to bolster their acoustic instruments.

Saffire’s sexual politics are clear as a divorce decree: “I don’t want to be nobody’s woman/ I don’t want to be nobody’s wife,” sings Ann Rabson (divorcée and mother of one) in “Annie’s Blues.” Clear too are the preferences celebrated in their signature song, the paean to young men “Middle-Aged Blues Boogie” (“I’ll forget about my arthritis/ My backache, my lumbago/ My young man makes me boogie/ At the horizontal disco”).

Despite Saffire’s eclectic ethnic mix (Jewish, African- American and part Cherokee), the music’s roots clearly lie in the tradition of Bessie Smith’s 1920s risque raunch. Rabson provides the oomph with her bawdy, roadhouse-style piano, while Earlene Lewis thumps along on upright bass and Gaye Adegbalola plays a steady, if sometimes too-quiet guitar. Most of the original songs are from chief vocalist Adegbalola, an ex-high school English instructor who was Virginia’s Teacher of the Year in 1982. So that among this album’s virtues is a description of the hazards of a radiator being too near the boys’ urinal, offered in “Schoolteacher Blues.” (Alligator)

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